Senior Toni-Lynn Salucci provided the highlights for the men’s and women’s cross country teams on Saturday, as her fifth-place finish in the NCAA Regional race at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City Saturday made her the first Cornell harrier to advance to the NCAA championships since Kate Boyles ’05 made the trip in 2004.
Salucci’s top-5 showing paced the women to a fifth-place showing overall, while the men’s squad placed eighth overall behind a 26th-place finish by sophomore Zac Hine.
Salucci was the story of the day for the Red, posting a personal record of 21:10.8 on the 6K course at Van Cortlandt Park, where she has run several times throughout her career.
“We’re used to running there, and I really love the course,” Salucci said.
Fellow senior Nyam Kagwima was second for the Red in the women’s field, finishing in 21:50.0 for 16th place in the field of 34 teams. Kagwima and Salucci each earned All-Region honors. Senior co-captain Robyn Ellerbrock capped a resurgent senior campaign by finishing 27th overall. However, according to Salucci, the team could have run better.
“As a whole, we didn’t feel like we ran as well as we did at Heps,” Salucci said. “But you’re not going to feel great after every single race.”
The race was nonetheless a success for the Red, who were seeded sixth going into the day. While the team had been adamant all year that it was better than its ranking, the Red finally showed it on Saturday.
Ironically, Salucci’s preparation and strategy for the race differed from her usual routine. Salucci is typically an average starter who tries to move to the front of the pack during the latter stages of the race and finish strong. At Regionals, she let other runners dictate her pace, sticking with the leaders early and picking off those in front of her late in the race.
“I actually didn’t feel good going into this race,” said Salucci. “That’s why I wanted to start fast. … I tried to stay close to the leaders early on, and I was able to make a move later.”
Conditions played a part in slower-than-average times Saturday, as New York featured unusual weather. Runners faced a headwind for part of the race, and temperatures were unseasonably high.
The men’s team, meanwhile, was disappointed in its performance at the Regional championships. The team’s top-2 runners, juniors Sage Canaday and Jimmy Wyner, finished 37th and 43rd, respectively. The lone bright spot was an improbable breakout performance by Hine, who finished 26th overall with at time of 32:40.1.
Hine has steadily improved as the season progressed, beginning the year at the bottom of the lineup but finishing behind Wyner and Canaday in third place for Cornell at Heps two weeks ago. Along with freshmen Charlie Hatch and Owen Kimple, Hine gained valuable experience as a starter this year.
The Red cited a variety of factors for its frustrating day. Along with atypical conditions, Canaday noted that a strong team performance at Heps may have been too difficult to follow up. The race was also 10K, the longest course of the year.
For Wyner, physical problems contributed to a poor showing, as his calf muscles cramped throughout the race.
Select runners will compete for the Red at next week’s ECAC/IC4A championships, while others will rest for the upcoming indoor track season.
Salucci will run in the national championship race Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 20.